What lessons have been learned from the 20 years of the global war on terror? What worked and what didn’t? And today, as Afghanistan is once again ruled by the movement that sheltered al Qaeda, were we wiser than the morning of September 11, 2001?
For the United States, which suffered the worst terrorist attack on the American continent, the world saw the opposite. There were good people versus bad people. “Every nation, every region,” President George W. Bush announced nine days after the 9/11 attacks, “Now is the time to decide. Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.”
A so-called “war on terror” was declared. This was followed by an invasion of Afghanistan, then Iraq, the rise of ISIS and the proliferation of Iranian-backed militias in the Middle East, and the deaths of thousands of soldiers and women and many civilians.
Terrorism has not been eradicated – every major European country has suffered attacks in recent years – but there have been successes. To date, there have been no 9/11 attacks. Al-Qaeda’s strongholds in Afghanistan were destroyed, its leaders were hunted in Pakistan. The self-proclaimed ISIS caliphate, which terrorized much of Syria and Iraq, has been eliminated.
1. Vital Intelligence
The clues were there but over time no one got into the points. In the months leading up to 9/11, the two main US intelligence agencies, the FBI and the CIA, knew that some sort of conspiracy was in the air.
But there was such animosity between the intelligence gathering at home and abroad that they kept what they knew. Since then, the 9/11 Commission report has been completely flawed and major improvements have been made.
While visiting the US National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) in Virginia in 2006, I was shown how 17 US agencies now gather their intelligence on a daily basis.
The UK has set up its own Fusion Center: the Joint Terrorism Analysis Center (JTAC), where dozens of experts from MI5, MI6, Defense, Transport, Health and other fields sit together in a single building on the outskirts of London. , Which provide a continuous overview of the ongoing review. The threat of terrorism to British citizens at home and abroad.
But the system is not perfect. Two years after the formation of the JTAC, al-Qaeda carried out the 7/7 London bombings, using British citizens, killing more than 50 people. A major plan to bomb more than one aircraft in mid-flight was thwarted the following year with the help of Pakistan, but in 2017 the UK suffered several attacks, including the Manchester bombing.
Gathering good intelligence and sharing can also fail to prevent attacks if wrong decisions are made about prioritizing tasks.
The Bataclan attack in Paris in 2015, which killed 130 people and is being prosecuted, was partly the result of European authorities’ failure to share timely intelligence at the border.
2.Not to be distracted from the mission
One of the reasons why Afghanistan has returned to Taliban rule is the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.
Many US and British special forces, who had been successfully hunting down al-Qaeda operatives and working with Afghan partners to keep the Taliban insurgents on their backs, were withdrawn and sent to Iraq. ۔
It allowed the Taliban and others to regroup and return stronger. By November 2003, when I visited an American infantry outpost in Afghanistan’s Paktika Province, the Americans were already describing their mission there as “Op Fergoton.”
It is easy to forget that the real mission in Afghanistan was clear and well done. After the Taliban rulers refused to hand over the criminals, the United States, along with the Northern Alliance (Afghan anti-Taliban), successfully ousted both the Taliban and al-Qaeda.
But in the years that followed, the mission blended again, moving in many directions.
Life improved for most Afghans at the time, but billions of dollars spent on “nation building” were wasted on corruption and waste.
3.Choose your company carefully
Britain’s partnership with its close ally, the United States, in the 2003 invasion of Iraq meant that Britain was a junior partner in almost all major decisions made during the later occupation.
Urgent requests not to disband the Iraqi army or bar all members of the Ba’ath party from playing a government role were ignored or rejected. The result was a disastrous alliance between angry and newly unemployed Iraqi military and intelligence officers with fanatical jihadists. It became Isis.
The post-9/11 collective panic meant that American and British intelligence cooperated with some governments with horrific human rights records. These chickens came home to roast.
For example, after the fall of Col. Gaddafi’s ousted government in Libya in 2011, journalists received a letter from a senior MI6 official to his Libyan counterpart in which he called for an arrest and abuse. The extradition of the Islamist opponent was discussed.
Today, violent jihadism is re-emerging the most in poor or undeveloped parts of Africa, raising the question of who the West should partner with.
4.Obey human rights or lose the moral high ground
People in the Middle East have repeatedly told me: “We do not like American foreign policy, but we have always respected the rule of law. As far as Guantanamo Bay is concerned.”
Catching suspects “on the battlefield” – including innocent civilians in a few cases who were sold as a reward – and then wrapping them in nappies, springs and ears halfway around the world to a U.S. naval detention center in Cuba Moved to center. Irreparable damage to the reputation of the United States and the West.
Detention without trial was something that happened at home in sovereign countries. The Arabs did not expect this from the United States.
The CIA’s dark spots where the suspected terrorists had simply disappeared were even worse, with “better investigations”, waterboarding and other abuse revelations. The Obama presidency stopped it, but the damage was done. Afghanistan
Have an exit plan
Western interventions before 9/11 were relatively quick and simple. Sierra Leone, Kosovo, even the 1991 Desert Storm Campaign – all had a limited end.
But the US-led invasions of Afghanistan and then Iraq have resulted in so-called “perpetual wars.” No one in 2001 or 2003 imagined they would be there two decades later. Simply put, the West does not understand what it is entering and has no realistic way out. Afghanistan
There is no doubt that if the West had not expelled the Taliban and al-Qaeda from Afghanistan in 2001, there would have been more attacks. The anti-terrorism mission in this country did not fail but the nation building mission was never completed. Afghanistan
And today, a permanent picture that most people will take is of desperate Afghans fleeing with a departing USAF C17 transport, an attempt by the West to flee the country. Afghanistan